Archive for October, 2009

write up: cat lair

October 25, 2009

IMG_0173In advance, I apologise for the quality of the photos. They were taken with an iPhone camera. And I also apologise for the lack of English address. And the fact that the only address I have is a photographed business card. But isn’t it more exciting when you have to hunt a place down?

Cat Lair is like your house. Your house if you like cats. And I like cats. So I felt right at home at Cat Lair.

The drinks, the food, the seats, the music; everything is sublime here. After spotting the sign from the side of the road the other day on the scooter, I decided to investigate what looked like an interesting venue.

After parking the scooter nearby we approached a gorgeous low white-painted gate, luckily open, and walked through to a courtyard umbrellaed by a huge tree and dotted with small tables able to seat two to four. We approached the bar area, assembled completely from what looked to be driftwood, and introduced ourselves to Paul, the co-owner of the establishment. (He owns the bar with his girlfriend).

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After taking the offered menu we sat at a courtyard table and ordered a green tea, which came in a beautiful three-sided vessel, and a DITA. I’d never heard of DITA before but it was a bittersweet beverage with a subtle lime tinge. We also decided to sample the mascarpone. It was a homemade treat of chocolate, biscuit, cream and caramel walnut pieces.

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We sat back to enjoy and slowly the bundles of preening fur around us became apparent. One was sitting on a cushion, staring at us serenely with a Cheshire grin and matching scarf. Another was peering cautiously from a carry case with nerves on full display. Another was playing decisively with Paul’s proffered toy, holding one paw in the air like a general going into battle. All around us were cats!

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Paul later explained that they own seven cats. Five live at the venue and two live at their apartment. Sometimes they switch them around. They encourage people to bring their own cats along to enjoy the space, too.

Before leaving we checked out the rest of the abode. Paul noted that, while Cat Lair has been serving their feline infatuated clients for two years, they only recently created the inside areas that exist beyond the bar. I’m glad they did. Inside there are three rooms, separated from each other by partial walls. Furnishings include comfy, homely couches, vinyl footstools, rugs and cushions. There is a bookshelf that you can browse and even a fake deer head on one wall.

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I also really love how you can see into their kitchen. It’s such a nice touch and Cat Lair really makes you feel like your hanging out in the thoughtfully designed home of a friend that is just that little bit cooler than you are but wants to involve you in all that they have. My chaperone even got a cute little grey purrer to sit on his lap. What a treat!

I said before that I felt right at home in Cat Lair. In fact, I want it to be my home.

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No. 21-55, Section 2, NánJīng East Rd, North District, Taichung City, Taiwan 404

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baking teensy: edition 1

October 21, 2009

Here is my teensy oven.

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I bought it from Carrefour for about NT$1800. The brand is Tatung. I have been baking in it for about two months and it has proved very reliable. Cooking times tend to be a little bit longer than a standard wall oven; I really don’t know why. Overall, however, it is a great little thing.

So far I have baked pies, scones and bread rolls.

Here are some recipes. I have amended them to suit the situation in Taiwan and have included where I found all the ingredients because some stuff proved hard to track down.

P1040037Vegetable and Tuna Pie

I really, really, really miss pies. They are just so tasty and something that I crave often. So I decided to have a go at making one. The result was excellent so here is the recipe for you to try, too.

what you need:

About 7 or so sheets of the square kind of puff pastry (I found mine in Carrefour in the frozen foods section)

1 can of concentrated vegetable soup (I used Campbell’s Creamy Mushroom soup from Welcome)

1 can of tuna in spring water, drained and flaked (both the small or the medium size is OK)

A handful of cheese (you can get small blocks of Mainland Edam from Carrefour or just use the grated cheese that you can find at most supermarkets)

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 sweet potato or ¼ of a pumpkin, cubed and boiled

Asparagus, parboiled (boiled for a very quick time and then rinsed under cold water)

Green beans (done the same way as the asparagus)

A handful of frozen peas (thawed)

Dried herbs (such as basil, thyme, oregano, parsley)

Salt and pepper

how to do it:

Leave the pastry out of the freezer to thaw and preheat the oven to about 200 degrees Celcius.

Use oil or butter to grease your pie tin. I have made pies using one big or four small disposable tinfoil baking tins from Carrefour.

Cook the onion, garlic and carrot in a small amount of oil in a large frypan until the onion is clear.

Add the rest of the vegetables and the dried herbs. Cook for another few minutes.

Add the can of soup concentrate, about half the can of water and the can of tuna. Mix well.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Line the pie tin or tins on the sides and the bottom with one layer of pastry. Spoon in the filling mixture and top with cheese. Brush the top of the pie with a little milk so it will brown nicely.

Place the pie or pies on a tray in the middle of your oven. I cooked mine for around 1 hour but it could take anywhere from 45 minutes to just over 1 hour. Just keep an eye on the pastry and when it’s as crispy as you like it, take the pie out.

teensy tid bits:

You can add any kind of filling you like. Add some cooked chicken for a pie meat lovers will enjoy.

You can also wrap leftovers in the pastry sheets to make small parcels and bake them in the oven for 30-40 minutes. I am going to use leftover pumpkin risotto in just this way tonight.

P1040654Beer Bread Rolls

Mmmmmm, good bread. What a rarity in Taiwan! Can’t find any? Why don’t you have a go at making it yourself? Here is a recipe that is super easy to follow. And you can add in whatever you want to satisfy all of your yeasty cravings.

what you need:

3 cups flour (I used a mixed grain I found at Welcome and an organic wholemeal flour from an organic store)

3 teaspoons baking powder (I found this at Welcome in a pink packet containing very unhelpful separated sachets of powder)

1 teaspoon of salt

1 can beer (made up to 400 ml with water)

1 handful grated cheese

some pumpkin seeds or pepitas

how to do it:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl with a wooden spoon. Do so quickly.

Spoon the mixture into four small baking tins or into one big loaf of pie tin (about 20 x 10 cm). I used some tinfoil disposable pie tins I found in Carrefour. Save them as you can wash them and use them more than once.

Top your bread with some more pepitas and a little grated cheese.

Put your bread in the oven on a tray in the middle. Cooking time will vary from 35 minutes to 1 hour. My four smaller buns took about 40 minutes. Test your bread is cooked by sticking a thin knife or skewer into the middle of the loaf (or loaves). If it comes out clean of dough then the bread is done.

teensy tid bits:

Try experimenting with different kinds of beer for different flavours. Just don’t use low-alcohol beer as it won’t work.

You can add anything you want to the bread at the mixing stage. I can’t wait to try rosemary, sage, cumin, paprika, sundried tomatoes, olives, granulated sea salt, capers, blue cheese, walnuts… Remember to save a few for the top of your bread.

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news: ah, the tropics

October 14, 2009

A quick post to announce I’m back from my tropical week-long disappearance to Lyu Dao (Green Island) and will soon have a post up with details on that wonderful little island. I hope you’ve managed to check out Reichburg in my absence. If you have, tell me what you think.

And if you haven’t already, check out the 2009 Taiwan Design Expo, on in Taichung until 10/18. I’m going on Friday.

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write up: reichburg

October 6, 2009

IMG_0083Driving by in the taxi, the place just shone out at me like a beacon of hope in an otherwise dark and dismal, pre-typhoon landscape.

Well, may be it didn’t happen in such an awfully cliché way but spying what looked like the perfect mix of hearty beer and decking did get me excited.

So, I went. And it was.

The bar is open plan and mostly outdoors. Long and sturdy wooden tables with accompanying bench seating are nestled comfortably on a moderately-sized wooden deck. The bar and wait staff were always within easy reach.

And the beer was good. Not absolute-must-have-now beer but a brew with substantial flavour. It’s available in 500 ml (in a glass), 1500 ml and 2500 ml (both in an at-your-table tap contraption to share). Best of all, it’s locally brewed so tastes very fresh.

On arrival we were treated to a serving of sliced and quartered cucumber marinated in a super-spiced chilli sauce. Yum. We sampled a little bit of the menu including crab pinchers, divine salty shrimp and some sliced beef stir-fried traditional Taiwanese style. Sorry, no pictures. We ate it all way too fast. Next time I hope to try some of the fried rice and noodles combos available.

Reichburg had only been open for three days when I visited this weekend. I hope it is here to stay because I can easily see myself on their deck whiling away the final hours of daylight of many an autumn Sunday with a few sundowners.

Reichburg is located near the corner of Daya Road and Jinhua North Road, Taichung City. I’ll put up a Chinese address as soon as I can find someone to type one up for me. There is no English menu yet but the staff are very friendly and able to translate the menu satisfactorily.

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